"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Used, New or The Next Big Thing?

Agent and blogger Nathan Bransford says, "Sure, it's all about the love of writing and all that, but when a publisher looks at the author's sales and decides whether or not to publish their next book, all those used book fans don't count toward the total."

I would like to state the following exceptions:

Buying used books supports my local library and new book sales. I get most of my used books at local library sales where the proceeds go to buy new books. I re-donate the books after I've read them, along with whatever books I've bought and decided not to keep.

Buying used books online enables me to buy far more books than I could at new prices. I prefer new books, who doesn't, but there I often go for less established authors. But not always.

I probably buy as many new books as I would otherwise. Used books are therefore a nice bonus.

Many of Nathan's commenters point out that they will buy a first novel used, and if they like it, buy the author's second novel new. He counters that publishers find it harder to sell a second novel, and that this makes it worse, and more likely that publishers will look for the "next big thing" instead.

Well, that's the problem isn't it, that they're looking for the next big thing while most of our literature was not the big thing. It came from the old tradition of nurturing writers, which incidentally, is the tradition most readers seem to be in harmony with, buying a book once we have grown fond of the author, not because we think that the secret to instant wealth and fame resides therein.

Looking exclusively for "the next big thing" will give us a literature that consists of Publishing's Greatest Hits from Jonathan Livingston Seagull to The DaVinci Code.

Nathan replies "One interesting thing to note is that Dan Brown is actually a case where his editor stuck with him and built his career, which paid off with THE DA VINCI CODE."

This is one of the blogs I read regularly -- nice to see Nathan reading and replying to comments.

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